K.V. Prasad

The agreement is needed for important defence purchases

This will avoid fresh negotiations and signing of documents each time

India wants bare minimum requirements for purchases

NEW DELHI: Amid growing strategic relations between India and the U.S. and increasing procurement, the Defence Ministry is on the verge of finalising a common End User Verification Agreement, instead of negotiating a stand-alone document that Washington wants New Delhi to sign each time before allowing sale of key military components to tri-services.

The Ministry now awaits the taking over of charge by A.K. Antony to proceed with the contours of an agreement that allows verification by the U.S. of some highly sensitive technology that its sells to other countries.

The agreement is currently needed for acquisitions such as the Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft for the Indian Navy and other defence procurement.

Ready for discussion

Just a day before results of the 15th Lok Sabha were declared, two officials of the Ministry travelled to Washington to discuss the draft agreement, sources in the Ministry told The Hindu. The officials came back with a document that is to be placed on the Minister’s desk for discussion.

The sources said efforts were on to prepare a document that could be cleared by the government, which can then be appended to any procurement agreement instead of negotiating it afresh each time a purchase is made.

Foreign inspectors

Aware that the issue of foreign inspectors on Indian sites is sensitive and evokes strong reaction, especially the Left parties, the Ministry is keen to ensure that the requirement under U.S. laws is kept to the bare minimum.

For instance, the sources said when India brought business jets for VVIP travel it included special components such as anti-missile defence technology, which as per the agreement comes under the verification clause.

In this case, instead of permitting Americans to visit Indian bases where these jets were positioned, New Delhi suggested that the equipment could be taken off these jets and be made available for inspection in the Capital. This done both parties went home satisfied of having kept to their end of the agreement, the sources said.

As per the U.S. laws, all foreign military sales are guided by the Golden Sentry programme that is governed by its Department of Defence while the Blue Lantern programme is governed by the Department of State.

This is to ensure that the product sold to a country is being used for the stated purpose.